THE Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) formed a joint front yesterday on the introduction of the youth wage subsidy, amid pressure for an end to the deadlock on the issue in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).
At a media briefing yesterday, the two organisations said they were seeking a speedy rollout of the R5bn subsidy, with Fedusa pledging to use its influence within Nedlac to resolve the issue. The DA said it would continue with pressure on leadership in the provinces to seek their allocation of the funds already set aside by the Treasury.
The DA-Fedusa partnership comes at a time when the subsidy is increasingly seen as part of a potential solution to deal with the crisis of youth unemployment, often characterised as a "ticking time bomb".
Earlier this month, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel said Nedlac needed to conclude its discussions soon, while KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize said the province was preparing for the youth wage subsidy's implementation, and was "hoping" for a quick resolution to the deadlock. Talks over the issue have broken down at Nedlac, with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) opposing the proposed subsidy on the grounds that employers would hire younger workers at a lower wage at the expense of older, more experienced employees.
Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini reiterated these concerns yesterday, saying the federation believed the "youth wage subsidy is not going to address the plight of the youth, it will further entrench slavery".
Mr Dlamini said Cosatu would continue to engage the issue at Nedlac, and would be submitting ideas on alternative forms of youth employment that linked with infrastructure, and its maintenance.
Fedusa general secretary Dennis George said the goal of a speedy resolution within Nedlac came with the recognition that the "toxic atmosphere" over such disputes was leading to business uncertainty and benefited no one. Fedusa had the same concerns as other federations over issues such as abuse of the subsidy by employers, or the substitution of older workers, he said.
Additional clarity from business stakeholders and provincial governments was needed on how these issues would be addressed, and such assurances should form part of the broader "social contract" necessary if the subsidy was to have the desired effect on youth unemployment and result in economic growth, he said.
DA national spokesman Mmusi Maimane said the party understood Cosatu's concerns over the displacement of older workers, but that the scheme was about "job creation not substitution". Referring to the Western Cape's youth subsidy scheme which the DA has described as a success, he said it was important that provincial governments clarify how their allocation of the subsidy would be implemented.